Record Review - 3 July 22 2004

Despite false indications from Midwestern ensemble the Race's moniker, nothing moves too quickly on the band's third full-length, If You Can. Rather, expansive tones and blooming clusters of harmony roll at a precise, deliberate and emotionally anemic pace. While the Race's guitars, keyboards, drums and voices gently weep, If You Can takes on an air of spacious resonance with despondent urgency. If playing the name game, citing anyone from Nick Drake to Radiohead to June of 44 accurately identifies the self-indulgence at work here. But such easy references don't do the Race any justice.

If You Can is slow-burning pop music made for 4:04 a.m., when the brain has ceased focusing on the task at hand to zone out on sleepless bliss. From the cavernous cadence of the title track to the nonthreatening rattle of "The Hours Eat Flowers," there's not so much an element of sadness behind each song as there is childlike melancholy. Subtle imagery of foliage and fragments of fairy tales weave into the mix, but whether they are indicative of some larger conceptual scheme is never made clear.

At the center of the recording, "Rose" breaks character with a wall of agitated guitar swells, bringing the music to a brief and poignant climax. But things soon drift back to their natural pace, culminating with "Out Like a Lamb," a sentiment that sums up the incident with unassuming suppleness.

The Race plays the Earl Fri., July 23, 9:30 p.m. $6.